The submarine force consisting of 100 SSNs and 36 SSBNs is a dream of the past. The preparations needed for this large submarine force, including the submarine bases and the associated infrastructure required to support it, were completed during the 1980s. With the current cuts being implemented and with the threat of even more cuts looming on the horizon, it appears that the actual submarine force will level off at only half of the projected size mentioned above by the year 2000. The submarine force has a choice to make on how it can save money. It can either close submarine bases or stop building submarines and stop employing those who operate them.
Closing submarine bases and their associated infrastructure will have a huge impact on the economies where they are located. Enormous sums of money wiU cease to flow into the local economy surrounding the submarine bases which are closed. Many small businesses will go bankrupt and the unemployment rate in the area will undoubtedly increase. Housing prices will fall and many people, including those in the military who must relocate, will have to take a loss when they sell their homes. These facts are not pleasant to consider when deciding to close a submarine base.
The most important consideration for closing submarine bases is there will be less money flowing into the infrastructure and more money left over to build more submarines, pay the subma-rine crews, and support the submarine fleet’s operational obliga-tions. The submarine force is being asked to maintain its signifi-cant obligations with fewer submarines and less funding. By closing submarine bases we can redirect the costs of operating those bases into operating our submarine fleet. If submarine bases are not closed, the Navy will be forced to cut funding for new construction submarines and reduce the number of personnel in the service. This could lead to the hollow Navy which resulted when indiscriminate cuts were made following the Vietnam War.
The submarine force currently has four submarine bases on each coast. With only half of the planned submarine force on hand by the year 2000, only half of the submarines needed to support them should remain operational . Therefore, two subma-rine bases on each coast should be closed by 2000. Operating more than two submarines bases on a coast will place drain on the funding which could be directed toward the operational fleet.
The decisions regarding which submarine bases to close are difficult. These difficult decisions will be made by the powerful politicians in Washington, DC and the country will have to accept the results. Everyone, including submariners, wants to protect their own homestead, and rightly so. Submariners must look ahead for the future of the submarine force and encourage the closure of submarine bases. By doing so, we will increase the potential of the operational submarine force.
The United States bas won the Cold War, but the world is still a dangerous place. We must maintain the current level of readyness in our military forces so that we may be able to cope with any circumstance which may arise. This includes maintaining the excellence of our pe~nnel and their quality of life. Closing submarine bases will aid in providing the required funding needed to ensure the capability of the submarine force to meet these and any other future demands.